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Watch your employees’ self-awareness, or pay on the stock exchange

February 23, 2015

If your employees have low levels of self-awareness, your company is likely to perform worse-off on the stock exchange than companies with employees who have high levels of self-awareness.

This was the findings by an extensive study conducted by Korn Ferry Institute involving some 486 publicly traded companies using 6,977 self-assessments to identify “blind spots” in individuals’ leadership characteristics. The results of these individuals were compared with their respective companies’ financial performance.

Through the study, which tracked stock performance over thirty months, the researchers found that on average:

  • Employees of poor-performing companies had 20% more blind spots than the employees from companies that are financially stronger;
  • Employees of poor-performing companies were 79% more likely to have low overall self-awareness than employees from companies that are financially stronger

In essence, companies with more self-aware employees consistently did better than companies with employees who are less self-aware.

So how do you up the level of self-awareness in your people?

The most obvious answer is through feedback and some form of objective measurement or evaluation. Here are 3 ideas for you to consider:

  1. Use a reliable and valid psychometric profiling tool.For decades, leaders and organisations have used psychometric tools to generate greater self-awareness. There are many to choose from, and they measure everything from personality to skills. With advancement in technology and an increased interest in brain science, we can now reveal how your brain prefers to think and behave. Before you decide on which psychometric instrument you want to use to increase self-awareness, make sure you ask about the tool’s reliability and validity: the higher the reliability, the more you can trust it. It’s like measuring height or weight. You want to be sure you have a measuring tape or a weighing scale that is manufactured to meet acceptable standards and is well calibrated. And please, use the tool for its intended purpose only. A weighing scale can only tell you how heavy you are, not how tall you are.
  1. Create a climate conducive for open and honest feedback. Feedback is a valuable source of information and can help increase self-awareness. Yet, many people still struggle with packaging it objectively and respectfully for it to be received kindly. Some struggle to unravel the feedback that has been so well-wrapped with niceties the actual message is lost. Still, others think of giving feedback – especially to their leaders – as a high risk activity. One way you can help is to create within your organisation a climate that is conducive for open and honest feedback so that everyone – and this includes the lowest ranking – can feel safe in giving others constructive feedback. To begin, you may consider a feedback box for anonymous feedback as a start. Run workshops or teambuilding programmes specifically designed to up the level of trust among colleagues. Have bosses openly welcome and appreciate feedback – and show that something is being done with the feedback.
  1. Coaching and mentoring. Getting a coach or a mentor for employees can be a big help in boosting self-awareness. While the pedantic definition of a coach or mentor is debatable depending on which camp or association you subscribe to, most would agree that a coach or mentor is someone whom the mentee or coachee can turn to for feedback or some form of professional or personal advice. You can assign more senior employees to be coaches or mentors to junior employees, and for senior employees, you may consider hiring a professional coach. Should you be assigning anyone to be a coach or mentor, please equip them with skills to play their role well. There’s an entire industry that is very serious about developing people’s skillsets in the art and science of coaching and mentorship.

Self-awareness should be thought of as a continuous journey of learning, unlearning and relearning. To get to the ideal point where you can combine the use of a psychometric tool with on-going mentoring and coaching programmes, and sustaining your efforts with building a climate that is conducive for open and honest feedback, you may first need to shape mindsets and beliefs around the importance of self-awareness. Ironically, getting key decision-makers to overcome their own blindspots may prove to be the harder thing to do.

 

Read also: Innovation: Right Method, Right Time

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